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Originally from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the multilingual, multi-talented Thiv˘, is a master of Nerikomi.  She has now made Key West her home. She was born Nguyen Thi Vo in the 1940's in Saigon, the daughter of a Chinese mother and a Vietnamese father, an officer in the occupying French army. She grew up speaking Chinese, Vietnamese and French. After her father was killed in a military ambush, she moved to Paris with her mother, brother and sister where she lived as a young adult. It was at this time that she learned to speak French and English fluently.

She describes using all four languages as a "Russian salad.  You throw in everything you happen to have on hand." Having attended " the internationally famous French culinary school, "Cordon Bleu," the food metaphor comes naturally to Thiv˘. The artist thoroughly enjoys using her culinary skills, most especially to entertain.

In 1969 she graduated from the prestigious "L'Ecole Nationale SupÚrieure des Beaux Arts" in Paris with a degree in painting. She also acquired knowledge of other art forms, including that which has become her passion - Nerikomi.

Three years later she moved to New York where she got "hooked on clay."  It was not until she moved to Cleveland in 1975, however, that Thiv˘ was to become a master craftswoman in Nerikomi.  She developed her own unique version of this ancient art form by applying the delicate ceramic techniques that she had learned in Paris.  This was accomplished by blending together her training as a sculptor and potter with her skills as a painter.  This "Thiv˘ style" has earned her wide acclaim both here in the United States and in Europe.

"I construct my work from slabs, coils and pinches of clay." She vibrates as she speaks, always smiling, always maintaining eye contact. Very few artists have the patience to perfect this intricate art form which requires the transformation of thin layers of wet, colored clays into exotic pottery designs. Thiv˘ weaves together her ceramic knowledge with her proclivity as a painter to create intricate figures and floral motifs.  

Moving to Key West two years ago, she has set up a new studio and has continued create the ceramic sculpture that has earned her such fame. Thiv˘ has an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm for her art, which she easily communicates to anyone who shows an interest in her creations. Her work has been exhibited extensively in major cities in the United States and Europe and graces many public and private collections.  This international recognition has been enhanced by numerous rave reviews of Thiv˘'s work, including a recent glowing story in "The New York Times."  These unique ceramic sculptures are available in the Florida Keys exclusively at Gingerbread Square Gallery.

Nerikomi Ceramic Sculpture

This ancient ceramic technique was known to Roman and early French potters in Europe and became an art form during the T'ang Dynasty in 7th century China.

To create Nerikomi, the clays are mixed with ceramic stains and metal oxides. Then the slabs of colored clays are stacked, folded and pressed to form a log. Slices of the log are cut, stretched, twisted and arranged in a mold to form a vessel or plate.

Nerikomi is a true thief of time. Of all ceramic vessel techniques, it is perhaps the most time consuming. Yet it offers the artist limitless opportunities to create distinctive colored designs and patterns within the very body of the work. The patterns are identical on both the interior and exterior; patterns that range from the most orderly and structured to the completely abstract.

Thiv˘ studied this technique under ceramic masters at "L'Ecole Nationale SupÚrieure des Beaux Arts" in Paris, France, where she earned her degree. Thiv˘'s unique form of Nerikomi involves almost countless colored designs or themes: flowers, landscapes, dancers and abstracts... with thread-like and bold effects.  Most of Thiv˘'s works are inspired by nature. Her sculptures have inherent organic motion and feeling within the art form; her optical-illusion patterns are in the clay, all of which requires meticulous handbuilding technique.

Every piece is one-of-a-kind artwork. Traditionally this technique has been limited to the creation of functional objects. In Thiv˘'s works she has expanded its use to sculptural vessel forms.  It is a laborious technique, but one that yields extraordinarily impressive and expressive works.

In some of Thiv˘'s work, holes of varying sizes and shapes, random or in patterned series pierce the surfaces.  Thiv˘ calls them "windows." She compares them to the "windows" in the landscape, hollows and gaps in trees, clefts in rocks and cavities under big tree roots.

About Nerikomi, Thiv˘ says, "Working with colored clays is a challenge and always difficult. But difficulties aside, this technique allows me to integrate forms, surfaces, colors and contrasts. The translations of color and texture, light and shadow literally move and change through the walls of the vessel."

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